What is a Renewable Semester Based Group?

praying

A “renewable” group is one in which the leader will typically lead the group with the willingness, if possible, to lead this same group (as described here) in the next semester. If so, prior to the end of the first semester, group members are presented with the option of continuing on with this same group, with the allowance that people are certainly free to not rejoin or to join a new group in the new semester. If it has been a good group experience, the vast majority of the group usually continues on intact as a group together.

The intent of this type of approach to small group structures is to provide a group experience that could last several months and up to 2 or 3 years. As has been stated in other Blog posts, to proceed through the Trust stage and enter into genuine Christian community together, it often takes several months. And once achieved, the experience and relationships are worth continuing for as long as the group stays healthy. Genuine Christian community also enables true spiritual growth, prayer and outreach together. By having the same leader, you have stability from one semester to another – the same style, the same emphasis, the same vision. Those that have joined for this emphasis and purpose in the first semester are more likely to continue with the same leader than for any other reason. A change in leader will likely be the element that would most hinder the member’s continued growth as a group the next semester. Continue reading

What is a Non-Renewable Semester Based Group?

small groupThis type of group meets as a closed group for a “semester” and then ends.  For the next semester new groups are offered, including potentially new leaders, new subjects, new meeting times and days, etc. Members may or may not sign up for a new group. They can try to sign up for this same group, kind of, and I say it would kind of be the same group, because the leader may or may not lead again, and the people may change completely. So in effect it really is a new group.  Now the advantage of this type of approach is that people are continuously being offered new groups to join and can meet different people in the church on a regular, continual basis. I say “meet” other people as opposed to form relationships with other people. Continue reading

Which is Better: On-going or Semester Based?

calendarAn “on-going” group is a group which begins and once started, doesn’t really have a stopping point until the group decides it should no longer meet.  Typically members are added throughout or at pre-determined intervals.

A “semester-based” group is one which meets for a pre-determined period of time, typically 3-4 months or perhaps the seasonal Sept- Dec; Feb- Apr; May- July. Once this time period is completed, the group is over and people must sign up for new groups in the coming semester. Continue reading

What is a “Closed” Group?

"closed" groupsIn contrast to an “open” group, a “closed” group is one in which once the membership is decided, the group does not allow or have provision for adding any new members, unless it is a renewable group and the initial group meeting period has ended.  A second distinctive characteristics of a closed group is that a certain amount of commitment to attendance or other group tasks is required to join, for the purpose of accomplishing what that group is hoping to accomplish within the time together.  From a practical perspective, since new members will not be added, a commitment to attendance by those joining is important to the success of the group. Continue reading

What is an “Open” Group?

openedOne decision that will make all the difference in the world regarding what type of group you will have, purposes you can effectively accomplish and results you will achieve is whether you have an open group or a closed group.  An “open group” is one where new people are free to join at anytime no matter whether the group is at in its life-cycle.  In fact, the purpose of the open group is so that the group can reach out to those outside the group to invite them in and include them in the group’s life.  A closed group is one in which the membership is determined in some way in advance and once the group begins, the group is “closed” and no one can join until that stage of the group life is finished, or the group is over.  Continue reading

Should a Small Group Ministry be Geography-Based or Not?

Geo-based Small GroupsIn certain situations it could be advantageous to have members assigned to or join groups that are in a certain geographic area. Certainly people always take into account the location of the meeting when choosing a group to be a part of, even when the church leadership is not encouraging participants to join a group within a certain geographic area. Geography does need to be taken into account in so much that you must have a group close enough to all willing participants so that they will come, if given the opportunity. Continue reading

Which is Better for Your Small Group Structure: Heterogeneous or Homogeneous?

Small GroupsThere are several decisions relative to the small group structure that most often will be decided by church leadership (recognizing that one of those decisions by church leadership is to allow leaders to determine some of these decisions themselves.)  Future blog posts will explore these decisions for church leaders in more detail.  However, here I will briefly touch on these considerations. Continue reading

What Should the Basic Commitment of Members Be?

commitmentA very important consideration that flows out of purpose which is also related to membership is deciding what commitments you will require from members. In other words, can members do or not do anything that they please, including show up or not, do homework or not, cause problems or not, sit silently or not, etc.? Related to this is whether and how you communicate to prospective members the commitments that are expected of them. Commitments flow out of purpose.

Often to accomplish your purposes you must have members that are committed to achieving these purposes, at least in some basic way. This is particularly true within the dynamics of a small group. To have members who will make these commitments you really must communicate these commitments prior to having them join the group. Otherwise, you will have many members who have joined and will stay, but have no intention of fulfilling the commitments. This will obviously hurt the group. However, one must always be mindful that the greater the commitments, the more likely people are to NOT join the group (think “6 hours of homework per week”).

The answer to this is to have some very basic commitments for all small groups that are communicated to all prospective members in advance. In upcoming Blog articles on Leadership Basics we will discuss these commitments in more detail, but for now the commitments we suggest are: Continue reading

Who Are the Members of the Small Group?

An essential ingredient for small groups to be successful is for their members to be personally committed to the group and to its purposes. apples and oranges

Perhaps it goes without saying that if a member joins a group and believes it is meeting for some other reason that why it is really meeting, that member will either not continue to come, not be invested in the group, or will be at a minimum disillusioned with the group. Whereas if a member specifically joins a group because they want to be involved in accomplishing the group purposes decided upon in advanced and communicated to them as potential members, they will be personally involved in and committed to that group. If then everyone joins for that same reason, the group becomes dynamic and exciting, and ultimately has a much greater chance of success. Continue reading

What About the Size of the Group?

group of peoplePreviously I presented the definition of a small group as:

A group of 8-14 people meeting regularly to explore and  fulfill the purposes God has laid out for them.

Most of the time church leadership will decide the preferred size of the group and will manage the process of placing members into groups. Occasionally the leader will have the liberty and need to make a choice as to the minimum or maximum size of the group. Typically a small group will consist of 8-14 people which is enough to generate a good conversation with multiple points of view but not so many people that each person can’t contribute, be heard, and be cared for.  Continue reading